Music

The Young: Chrome Cactus

The Young's sophomore effort demonstrates the band's talent and potential but the overall creation is lacking.


The Young

Chrome Cactus

Label: Matador
US Release Date: 2014-08-26
UK Release Date: 2014-08-25
Amazon
iTunes

What on earth separates the merely polished and competent from the visionary? Why is it that a band as technically skilled as the Young sound so completely unremarkable when compared to the forebears they’re so obviously aping? Chrome Cactus, the band’s sophomore album, has all of the distorted, fuzzy appeal and even some of the eccentric, rocking guitar solos of a Dinosaur Jr. album, all of the gritty roll that characterizes so much of '90s grunge, hell, even shades of the granite-heavy drone metal that’s the purview of bands like latter-day Earth or collaborations like The Desert Sessions and an impossible polish and yet not a drop of honest-to-god character.

Please, don’t make the mistaken assumption that this album is bad or that there’s some easy explanation for this emptiness. Others elsewhere have made bones about Hans Zimmerman’s vocals, even cast them as the sole villain in this enterprise, but his low-down rasp and the gobbledygook lyrics are actually perfect supplements to the magnitude of the bass and drums and more than welcome passengers on the light-waves of these sunny guitars. (An odd aside: in Matador’s press-release, they mention that the band’s sound was inspired by Lungfish. But one of the defining features of Lungfish are Daniel Higgs’ grand, prophetic doomsday cries and meditative hums, a complete contrast to Zimmerman’s venomously mumbled whispers. Nor is this so-called inspiration evident in the band’s conservative style). The instrumentation never misses the mark, shifts very comfortable from the measured walk of "Mercy" to the virtuoso guitar shenanigans at the end of "Cry of Tin".

There’s an attitude and a swagger in the music that’s welcome, something like the aural equivalent of a gunslinger strolling into a saloon, and a heavy push courtesy of bassist Lucas Wedow’s serious chops that suggests the rock in rock and roll has not been entirely forgotten, but it’s all still lacking something vital. At the end of the day, the tracks blend into one another not because they necessarily sound the same but because there’s so little there in each song that’s new and challenging that it’s often hard to concentrate on them. It’s as if the brain has heard these exact arrangements or a variation thereof so many times that it filters the information out because there would be no point in retaining it; it’s the definition of redundant.

It’s a shame, but in some ways, this kind of mediocre release is worse than a truly bad one. To observe wasted talent, to see potential squandered on banal imitation, is to be disappointed. It’s a feeling worlds apart from the distance and superiority and even comfort that can so easily be found in watching a gaggle of hacks trip all over each other as they try to make something, anything at all. It’s doubly sad to find that this album is so close in terms of sound to their debut, Dub Egg, because it does not hint at any coming change for the Young. The Young still haven’t learned that there is a difference between having your inspirations and being artistically inspired in the sense of having a passionate, driving idea that needs to be communicated at the expense of everything else. Sometimes you have to smash your idols before you build yourself into one.

5

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.

Film

Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.

Music

3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".

Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.